The Next Best Thing

Remember the college days? What did you eat back then (well, for me it certainly feels like “back then” although it was only 8 years ago since those undergrad days) when the “freshman 15” was really no big deal because you were little, young, and knew you’d work those extra calories off at some point?

I tell ya, I ate a heck of a lot of Gumby’s pizza (take a look – their pies are cheap as dirt!) and frequented Sammy’s for their hot wings with ‘Sammy Sauce’ more times than I care to remember. Shoot, we even took my dad there when he came into town, which was often. NC State was his alma mater too, so he jumped at the chance to tailgate, eat wings, and visit (probably also to check in on me, which I didn’t mind because it always involved giving me gas money).

When I wasn’t ordering Gumby’s or making my way over to Sammy’s, Wing Zone received quite a few calls from my dorm room and following the first year, whatever apartment I was living in at the time, since much to my dad’s dismay I moved every. single. year. Wing Zone has multiple flavors of chicken wings and when you’re in college, you have to ensure that there are good pizza and wings in the near vacinity. For me, that was no problem.

But in college, I never thought about the actual preparation of wings: the breading, the often-frying, and that finger-lickin’ buffalo sauce that was comprised primarily of three ingredients: butter, hot sauce, and butter. I could, spoon in hand, alternate between the sauce and the blue cheese dip without ever touching the chicken, if truth be told.

But now I know why I shouldn’t, and as much as it hurts to pass up the wings 9 out of 10 trips to sports bars, I punk out and instead drool all over my plate that once held something boring, like grilled chicken.

I’ve realized that it doesn’t have to be that way. First, I now know how to make my own yummilicious wings that, although comprised of similar ingredients, have much less butter and are baked instead of fried. One could stop at the wings and be satisfied for the most part, but I was still hankerin’ for the blue cheese.

And so I present to you, a “best of both worlds” sort of dish: chicken stuffed with a blue cheese sauce, baked until it’s oozing out all over the place, and topped with a healthy version of buffalo sauce that’s sweet from the roasted red peppers, tangy from the Worcestershire sauce, and reminiscent of the wings you know and love thanks to Frank’s Red Hot. You definitely won’t miss all the butter, and in this case, the only thing missing is the celery sticks, and perhaps a nice cold one to wash it all down.

What about you – any healthy food conversions you can to share?

Blue Cheese-Stuffed Chicken with Buffalo Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light March 2010; serves 4

printable version

1/2  c (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese
1  T reduced-fat sour cream
1  t fresh Meyer or regular lemon juice
1/4 t  freshly ground black pepper
4  (~6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4  c flour
2  T skim milk
1  egg, lightly beaten
1  c panko breadcrumbs (or regular if that’s what you have)
1 1/2  T butter, divided
6  T finely chopped drained bottled roasted red bell peppers
2  t water
2  t Worcestershire sauce
1  garlic clove, minced
1 T hot sauce (Franks, preferably)

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Cut a horizontal slit through thickest portion of each chicken breast half to form a pocket. Stuff cheese mixture evenly into pockets.

Place flour in a shallow dish. Combine milk and egg in a shallow dish, stirring with whisk or fork to mix. Place panko in a shallow dish. Working with 1 breast at a time, dredge chicken in flour, then egg, then panko. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken, flour, egg mixture, and panko.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter to pan; swirl until butter melts. Arrange chicken in pan; cook 4 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken over; place skillet in oven. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until done.

While chicken bakes, combine remaining 1 1/2 t butter, bell peppers, water, Worcestershire, and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer; cook until butter melts. Remove from heat, and stir in hot sauce. Serve sauce with chicken. If you prefer a less clumpy sauce, blend in processor or blender.

5 thoughts on “The Next Best Thing

  1. WOW – you just brought college right on back! Gumby’s was our go-to place as well (at Michigan State, and uh…a little more than 8 years ago.) 😉 I didn’t like their pizza, but Pokey Stix – that was my favorite! My college BFF and roomie is on her way into town right now, and I know we’re going to talk Pokey Stix tonight. (And maybe make some GF ones tomorrow!)

    And that chicken – looks amazing!

  2. I would love to try this out, looks like a bit of work but I’m sure it will be worth all the sweat! im still fairly new to the cooking world, so i really hope this turns out well for me. thanks for sharing this, hopefully next time ive got something of my own to share 🙂

  3. Allison – i definitely miss wing stop – they aren’t the same here in chicago for some reason, but this chicken is a good sub 🙂

    Jenn – Pokey Stix!!!! I forgot about those – but yes, ate lots of them too. i’d probably hate the pizza nowadays, but in college it was perfect!

    Amy – give it a try – it isn’t as hard as you might think – good luck!

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